Prior to fertilization, mammalian spermatozoa need to acquire fertilizing ability (capacitation) in the female reproductive tract. On the other hand, capacitated spermatozoa reversibly lose their capacitated state when treated with seminal plasma (decapacitation). Previously, we demonstrated that a mouse seminal plasma protein, SVS2, is a decapacitation factor and regulates sperm fertilizing ability in vivo. Here, we examined the mechanisms of regulation of fertilizing ability by SVS2. Capacitation appears to be mediated by dynamic changes in lipid rafts since release of the cholesterol components of lipid rafts in the sperm plasma membrane is indispensable for capacitation. When the ejaculated spermatozoa were stained with a cholera toxin subunit B (CTB) that preferably interacts with ganglioside GM1, another member of the lipid rafts, the staining pattern of the sperm was the same as the binding pattern of SVS2. Interestingly, SVS2 and CTB competitively bound to the sperm surface with each other, suggesting that the binding targets of both molecules are the same, that is, GM1. Molecular interaction studies by the overlay assay and the quartz crystal microbalance analysis revealed that SVS2 selectively interacts with GM1 rather than with other gangliosides. Furthermore, external addition of GM1 nullified SVS2-induced sperm decapacitation. Thus, ganglioside GM1 is a receptor of SVS2 and plays a crucial role in capacitation in vivo.
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Vol. 79 • No. 6